Have a Messy New Year


It’s January 1. My Christmas tree is still up: crunchy, drooping, and shedding needles profusely. (Bonus: my vacuum smells like pine every time I light it up.) Laundry is piled in the easy chair, Nerf bullets and Legos dot the living room rug, and dirty dishes are stacked in the kitchen sink. Clothes are piled in my bedroom, clean but homeless, and there’s a pink ring inside my toilet bowl.

I did follow through on my one resolution to do a morning devotion upon waking. Granted, I was still snuggling under my bedcovers and squinting at Scripture readings on my phone, but that’s a win.

Commercial breaks on New Years Rockin’ Eve were saturated with Weight Watchers commercials. (Um, Oprah, what’s up with the Groucho Marx glasses?) I appreciated the Planet Fitness ads supporting Squishy People working out. But I’m not biting.


It’s hard to be excited about 2017 when all you want is 2014. It’s hard to be giddy about future life plans when what you really want is to linger in the past.  I know a lot of folks want to give 2016 a Heisman-esque stiff arm. And as years go, 2016 did kind of suck. That said, every Times Square ball drop, for me, is just another mile marker separating me from my son, and it’s nothing to celebrate.

At some point in the last month, I had an epiphany. (HAR! See what I did there, liturgical friends?) I realized, or perhaps, had revealed to me, that the holidays suck for a lot of folks because control issues. Even my best intentions to keep traditions and rituals for my family are stressful for me. Why? Because it means keeping careful control of how things are done, control that dissipated when my son died.

Making New Year resolutions means actively taking control. And that’s not something I feel capable of doing, on so many levels. I told my counselor recently that surviving child loss gives me the same unmoored feeling I experienced during my first, legit California earthquake. I looked around at all the furniture shaking, heard the train rumble of undulating earth, and understood that even terra firma wasn’t trustworthy. Pun fully intended: it’s the most unsettling feeling ever. In that moment, I felt pinprick tiny and utterly powerless.

Maybe there are a lot of folks who feel unready, unworthy, or incapable of seizing the reins of 2017. Maybe this feeling isn’t unique to the grieving. Maybe I’m not the only person who is sorely reluctant to crack a new wall calendar.

Maybe there are other people who also believe retro is better than nouveau. 

So what to do? Well, I’m sure as shit not going to the gym. Yay for all my squishy friends, but I’m not into crowds. I’m not making myself a nasty ass kale smoothie for breakfast. And I’m definitely not emptying all my kitchen cabinets for a thorough decluttering. (Probably should start with the dirty dishes first.)

Instead, I will surrender any pretense of control. Not to chaos, or hopelessness, but to the present. My house is messy. My life is messy. My heart is messy. And I don’t have to pretend otherwise. I don’t need a new schedule. I don’t need resolutions I resolutely won’t keep.

The only plan I do intend to follow through on, in addition to early morning snuggly bed devotions, is an online class in “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.” A dear friend suggested it, and I think we can keep each other tracking. We’ll be learning and practicing how to be present and accept what we’re feeling without judgment. (If it sounds granola and West Coast, that’s probably because it is.) It’s basically a course in relinquishing control.

And on January 1st, I’m totally cool with that.


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